Drought-tolerant landscaping saves money and water

Alameda is getting an eco-friendly makeover, one drought-tolerant yard at a time

Walk around your neighborhood and see how many front lawns are now dry and patchy, turned to yellow straw or dirt. This is no coincidence, and residents are not too lazy to take care of their garden. Most of them save water. Living in extreme drought prompted many Alameins to make major changes in water use, including converting lawns to drought-tolerant gardens and using drip irrigation systems. Lawns simply have to disappear in order to plant new landscaping. The initial transition may not always be pleasing to the eye, but the result can be lush and beautiful, and very effective at conserving water.

Alameda Post - Lawn after conversion to draft resistant landscaping

Lawn before and after drought resistant landscaping. Photos courtesy of EBMUD.

Here in the Bay Area, we’ve reduced our water use far more than the average Californian, according to heads of state and Bay Area water agencies meeting this week at the Quarry Lakes Demonstration Garden in Fremont. In the first six months of 2022, we reduced water usage to an average of 60 gallons per person per day from the state average of 82 gallons, according to East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) . Multiply that by EBMUD’s 1.4 million users and you get an idea of ​​what we’ve saved by changing our water habits and habitats – at least 72 million gallons per day. “EBMUD’s customers are phenomenal at conserving water,” said EBMUD Managing Director Clifford Chan.

Get up to $2,000 to make the switch

Switching from lawns to drought-tolerant landscaping not only saves water, but also money. Less water usage means lower water bills each month. And on top of that, EBMUD is giving rebates for lawn conversions up to $2.50 per square foot, with a maximum of $2,000 for single-family homes and small multi-family homes, or $15,000 for properties. commercial, municipal and large multi-family properties. There are also discounts for switching to efficient irrigation systems, using flow meters, and using gray water from indoor sources for outdoor landscaping. Visit the EBMUD website for discount program information and instructions on how to apply.

Many Alamadians have already received these discounts. Over the past eight years, EBMUD has processed more than 250 lawn conversion reimbursements, representing more than 380,000 square feet of lawn conversions to drought-tolerant landscaping in the city of Alameda, according to Nelsy Rodriguez, representative of public information from the water agency. “We also processed around 180 reimbursements for conversion from sprinkler to drip irrigation,” she noted.

Alameda Post - A lush, drought-tolerant landscape at Otis Terrace
Otis Terrace Apartments have transformed their sidewalk median into a lush, drought-tolerant garden. Google photo image capture.

It’s not just individual landlords or tenants making the switch. Many apartment complexes around the city have already converted their lawns into beautiful drought-tolerant gardens. Most of the apartments that line Otis Drive across from the South Shore Center now have drought-tolerant landscaping on their medians between the sidewalk and the street. And the City of Alameda is also conserving water, not only with the new conversion of City Hall Lawn, but also with city-owned properties such as Independence Plaza, an apartment complex for people 62 years and older, drought tolerant and berry friendly. housing throughout the land.

Alameda Post - A garden with a fountain, rocks and plants
The Independence Plaza seniors’ apartment complex features drought-resistant landscaping. Photo Alameda Housing Authority.

Getting started with a drought tolerant garden is quite simple.

Ready to convert your yard into a drought-tolerant garden? The first step is to get rid of your lawn in the area you want to redevelop. The easiest and cheapest way to start is leaf mulching (see video below).

Start by gathering boxes, often available at your local grocery store. Open the boxes flat, cover your entire lawn with the cardboard, then top it with woodchip or bark mulch. Many tree service companies will deliver free wood chips, and EBMUD will give you coupons for free mulch and compost at nearby nurseries.

Then wait three to six months to let the cardboard and mulch break down into the soil. The best time to do this is summer or fall, but you can start whenever suits you best. The key ingredient is patience.

Check out the free garden plans

For those of us who are not gardening experts, there is a wealth of information online. The Harbor Bay Isle Homeowners Association (Bay Farm Island) offers free downloadable drought-tolerant landscape plans and lawn conversion guidelines with step-by-step plans for a variety of different gardens. Take a look at the California Native Plant Society’s fully customizable garden planner to see which plants are native to Alameda and suitable for your purposes as well as the aesthetics of your favorite garden.

Alameda Post - A bird's eye view of a plan to convert a lawn to a drought tolerant landscape.  The plan includes a map of where all the plants will be placed.
Harbor Bay Isle offers free lawn conversion plans online. Photo HarborBay.org.
Alameda Post - A rendered photo of what a lawn might look like before and after replacing the lawn with a drought tolerant landscape
A render of a lawn makeover using the plans above. Photo HarborBay.org.

Garden Center Resources for Drought Tolerant Plants

And by all means, visit our local nurseries and ask questions. The Encinal Nursery (2057 Encinal Avenue, open seven days a week) is a family business that has operated in Alameda since 1946. Their wide variety of beautiful plants is second to none here on the island, and the staff are very helpful. . Their greenhouse is filled with cacti and succulents.

Alameda Post - A wall of different plants available for sale
Encinal Nursery offers a large selection of cacti and succulents. Photo @encinalnursery.

Plowshares Nursery (2107 Main St., open Wednesday through Sunday), specializes in drought-tolerant, edible California native plants. Part of the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC), the large-scale nursery has its own demonstration garden and offers hands-on workshops in sustainable landscaping and garden design. Nursery sales generate income for APC’s supportive housing for formerly homeless people, and the company also provides job training for APC residents.

Alameda Post -Ploughshares manager Jordan Taylor smiling and holding a plant
Plowshares manager Jordan Taylor is happy to help the Alamedans plan a drought-tolerant garden. Photo Liz Barrett.

“A lot of people who come here are looking for lovers of warmth and native plants who will end up taking care of themselves when it comes to gardening with water,” said Jordan Taylor, director of Plowshares. “Plus, many native plants have natural defenses against pests, so you can avoid using pesticides.” While browsing the nursery, she noted that while succulents and cacti are beautiful and popular in drought-tolerant gardens, they are certainly not the only options. “The native milkweed is amazing,” Jordan said. “Monarch butterflies love milkweed. Echinacea is very popular. And people love passionflower vines. They’re not necessarily native, but once established, they’re definitely drought tolerant and heat-loving. Salvia and most lavenders will also be perfect for your drought tolerant garden.Taylor and her staff are available during business hours and are happy to share tips on garden planning.

Liz Barrett is the editor of the Alameda Post and writes about the community. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writings are collected at AlamedaPost.com/Liz-Barrett.

Terri S. Tomasini